BACOLOD CITY—A town mayor in Negros Occidental has warded off allegations that he maintains a private army, saying his men have licensed firearms.
Pulupandan Mayor Magdaleno Peña told a news conference on Thursday that he had security guards because he was once a target of a New People’s Army ambush in Pulupandan town before the elections in May 2007.
But he stressed that his guards had licensed firearms unlike private armed groups whose men carry loose or unlicensed firearms.
Peña said he called Army and police officials in Western Visayas, and they denied disclosing to the media that he had a private army.
Asked if his men, who are armed, accompany him when he goes out, he replied: “I’m an army of one.”
Vice Governor Genaro Alvarez Jr. said there were no private armies in the sixth district of Negros Occidental where he comes from, and he was not aware if there were any in other areas.
Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., on the other hand, said the presence of private armies in some areas had long been known.
“It is up to the police and the army to arrest them if they could catch them,” Marañon said.
That was his instructions to Senior Superintendent Celestino Guara, Negros Occidental police caretaker, when he was assigned to the province, the governor said.
“I asked him [Guara] to keep the elections clean, honest and credible,” he added.